Flashback to many years ago when Rukia first got adopted into the Kuchiki family and joined the thirteenth squad: Kaien is the gregarious vice-captain, one of the few people who befriend her. She eventually gets used to being around this outgoing and outspoken man who once said that he’d stand by her even if he died. But he is already married, and his wife, Miyako, is the third seat of the division. That is, until she is taken out by a Hollow, her entire squad anhilated. Miyako herself appears to be ok, that is, until she rises from her slumber and starts to kill everyone around her. Kaien stops her from hurting Rukia, but she jumps away and escapes. Ukitake, Kaien, and Rukia set out to track her down and find out what happened. They come across her clothing and her zanpaktou, with a Hollow waiting nearby. Kaien wants and gets permission to fight the Hollow alone, but it proves much harder to kill than he anticipated. One of its special skills is shattering the zanpaktou of the first Shinigami who touches its tentacles each night, a trap that Kaien falls prey to. Rukia wants to help, but Ukitake stops her by saying that Kaien is fighting for his personal pride. The Hollow finally uses another of its special abilities: this one allows it to jump out of its shell and permanently possess its target. The new Hollow Kaien leaps to attack Rukia, but Ukitake defends her and tells her to run. Ukitake doesn’t hesitate to slash the abomination once it learns that Kaien and the Hollow’s souls are now inseparable. However, his own disease and coughing leaves him open to attack. With an opening, Hollow Kaien jumps for another target: Rukia. The captain orders her to kill him, and with no other choice, Rukia spears her zanpaktou through the Hollow, ending its life. As it lies dying in her arms, the real Kaien’s voice comes out and thanks the captain for letting him fight alone. His final words apologize to Rukia for dragging her into this and thank her for what she did. Back in the present, Rukia recalls the event clearly, evoking disgust at herself and feelings that she is unworthy of rescue. Elsewhere, Captain Ukitake finds Byakuya to inform him of the bad news, but Byakuya already knew about the new execution time and could care less.
There are few changes from the manga this week, but one of them is quite big. In the manga, Miyako is mentioned in passing and you see that she is already dead by the time they recover her body. Kaien thus goes for revenge. In today’s episode, they portray her as an actual character, gave her a name, and don’t kill her initially. Instead, she goes on a rampage, and Kaien has to stop her. The end result still has him fighting the Hollow that ate her, and the rest of the episode is kept intact. And because the important part of that story is still the same (Rukia feeling guilty about Kaien’s death), this change can be seen positively because the anime brought to life a previously static character.
The main focus this week is of course on Shiba Kaien. This is most definitely one of my favorite parts of the story, especially since Kaien parallels a certain someone so much. Once we get a little further in the story, I’m sure there will be lots of discussion on this topic, but its best for now not to mention it too much (since there are spoilers abound). Rukia, on the other hand, needs someone to smack some sense into her. She needs to get over the self-loathing over something that was unavoidable
This week covered three chapters of the manga: 134-136. I’m having a hard time judging how much next week’s episode will go through based on the preview alone. The manga, at this point, jumps directly to execution day and starts things off with a fairly big bang. I suspect that the animated version might throw some stuff in to bridge the gap, especially since the preview showcases several shots I don’t remember from the manga. But we’ll see; I’m at the point where I trust the Bleach team to do a good job with whatever they give us.
Closing Thought: The Hollow today was voiced by Ohtsuka Houchu, who also does the voice of Gates (of FMP! TSR). He plays those villain parts so well…